Featured Image: Model: Eva Marini @hane.iro (self-portraits)
We’ve been charmed for a while now by the lovely, old-timey, and definitely witchy needlework of folk artist Lori Brechlin, who humble old farmhouse with a rusty tin roof and chipping white paint, raising chickens, donkeys, guinea hens, a peacock, a pile of cats and dogs, and a parrot named Peaches, all with her one true love, Peter. Below, we ask Brechlin more about her life and art.
Enchanted Living: How did you get into textiles and telling stories through textiles?
Lori Brechlin: I never had any formal education in any of the mediums I work in—cross-stitch, watercolor, and scherenschnitte (paper cutting). I gleaned knowledge of them from two very talented aunts on my mother’s side who graciously shared with me their sewing and painting tutelage. I learned embroidery later in my teens, and once I had a needle in my hand, I felt a connection to our foremothers who plied their thread to make everyday objects more beautiful. As I grew older, I studied old textiles at historical societies and museums in New England and began experimenting with my own naturally dyed cloth and threads, then stitched motifs from my memory and imagination into my textile artwork. Antique samplers and needlework that hung in my aforementioned aunts’ house held such a fascination for me, I just knew I had to have been a needlewoman in a past life!
EL: What kinds of stories do you tell?
LB: My stories come from dreams, places, and people— some real, others not. Always, magic is sprinkled throughout my works. My stories are those of old times and older ways, when women were not allowed to speak their minds or even have opinions. Needlework was something that allowed us to somewhat control what we wanted to say and allowed us a form of expressive freedom. The characters that I create are kind, loving, and somewhat outcast. My mind can create a whole life and environment for a certain character, mostly for my beloved witches, and I believe that by telling stories we become connected through time and space.
EL: Why witches?
LB: Being the last child of five, I was somewhat left to my own devices, which meant I spent most of my time outdoors. I put many miles on my bicycle pedaling around Stratford, Connecticut, the small town I grew up in. One day I found myself down by the water at a place called Bond’s Dock. It was there I found a stone that was placed in memory of the first settlers of Stratford, which piqued my interest and led me to our local library, where I stumbled upon the name Goody Basset. Goody was accused of sorcery and witchcraft, and she was chased through town and executed by hanging on the Town Hall Green in 1651. This tale frightened me but made me want to learn even more about witches in my town. Goody was exonerated just recently. She’s become my muse and inspiration, and I imagine her in many forms, doing many helpful things—not as an evil person.
EL: How do you incorporate magic into your daily life?
LB: By setting intentions, manifesting and spellwork every single day. Spellwork is just that: writing down (spelling) out intentions that you want to see happen and then manifesting (seeing the outcome) to life. I also sing a lot, whistle, and dance. My daily tasks, like sweeping and dusting, include rituals of cleansing. Hanging laundry on the line to dry in sunshine and fresh air attracts goodness and health. Adding a bit of magic to everything is essential, especially when I sit to stitch or paint or sketch. I will always set intentions in the outcome of my work, so that it makes people happy and comfortable.
EL: What would you say to a reader looking to get into needlework?
LB: For someone who has never put needle and thread to cloth and has interest in doing so, I would say this:
Gather your humblest supplies—not everything has to be shiny and new. Go to thrift shops and look for vintage supplies and kits.
Begin by sitting comfortably and quietly. Have a nice hot cup of tea nearby and then think on your cloth, needle, thread, and hoop as tools you will use to create beauty … your beauty.
Start slowly, and don’t constrain yourself to perfection. Be original and true to yourself. Just let your hand and heart be your guide. If you search the internet, books, and magazines, treat them as inspiration but don’t copy anyone else’s work—doing that is personally unsatisfying and troublesome.
There are many online tutorials, videos, and shops to purchase supplies, kits and patterns that will suit your needs to begin your stitching journey.
I am always happy to help, give guidance, and answer questions as well. And remember: We are all creative. We are all artists in our own right. We are all magical.
Follow Lori Brechlin on Instagram @notforgottenfarm.